Andrew Weaver, the UVic climate scientist who propped up the NDP government in 2017, is stepping down as leader of the B.C. Green Party.
Weaver will stay on until his successor is found and will remain MLA for Oak Bay-Gordon Head until the fall 2021 provincial election, allowing an NDP-Green power-sharing agreement to continue until then.
“I am making this announcement now so that the party has enough time to start the process of electing a new leader in preparation for the next provincial election,” Weaver said Monday, the first day of the fall session of the legislature.
Weaver, who reduced his workload after a health scare landed him in hospital last month, said his decision is not related to his health. In the summer, he said, he had a conversation with his family about why he became leader in the first place — out of civic duty and principle as he watched the province slip from being a climate leader to a “climate laggard.”
He noted that two weeks ago, millions of people rallied — including several thousand at the B.C. legislature and 100,000 in Vancouver — demanding that politicians take action to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions. “This incredible movement is being led by youth — the ones who must live the consequences of the decisions that we make and their momentum is growing,” he said.
Weaver said one of the main reasons he believes it’s time for the B.C. Greens to elect a new leader is to allow another generation to take the lead.
“I believe it’s time for me to step aside and allow a new leader to take everything I’ve accomplished and make it better, take it further and adapt it to the opportunities and challenges of the future.”
The B.C. Green Party’s provincial council is expected to meet this month to put a leadership-contest committee in place. Members will vote for a new leader at the party convention to be held in Nanaimo in June 2020.
Premier John Horgan said he is disappointed, but understands Weaver’s decision.
The province’s minority NDP government remains in power with the support of the three Green MLAs. Weaver’s decision will not affect that. The NDP holds 41 seats, while the Opposition B.C. Liberals have 42 seats. Speaker Darryl Plecas sits as an Independent.
Weaver said the decision not to run for re-election was not an easy one. “I feel a deep responsibility and pride for the role the B.C. Greens have played in getting the province back on track to meet its climate commitments and to reframe climate change as an economic opportunity — instead of a purely environmental catastrophe.”
In 2013, Weaver left his post as Canada Research Chair in climate modelling and analysis at the University of Victoria. He ran successfully in Oak Bay-Gordon Head in May 2013, becoming the first elected provincial Green politician in Canada, and was acclaimed as the party’s leader in 2015.
He said he was motivated by a desire to make a difference with climate change, and saw the B.C. Green Party as the best vehicle to do that work.
Horgan said Weaver’s legacy “will be his passion for climate action and his participation in the Clean B.C. plan, which leads the country and would not be as robust as it is today if not for his contribution.”
The plan, announced in December 2018, aims to reduce pollution by shifting homes, vehicles, and businesses from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources.
The B.C. Greens have been at odds with the NDP government over the NDP’s pursuit of the Liquefied Natural Gas Canada project in Kitimat.
Horgan said he didn’t imagine when Weaver was elected in 2013 that the two would have much in common, but over the last two years, they have become friends.
In 2013, as members of the opposition, the two “didn’t have a lot to do with each other,” Horgan said. “We were talking about different things at different times.”
And even though they both grew up in the capital region, they didn’t have any historical connections: Horgan went to Reynolds Secondary School in Saanich and Weaver went to Oak Bay High.
Then in 2017, the three-member Green caucus helped the NDP to form government.
“Many expected it wouldn’t last,” Horgan said. “I’ve enjoyed working with Andrew. I’ll continue to work with Andrew. Much done; more to do.”
Working on issues that matter to British Columbians has “focused our minds, it’s focused our relationship and I’m very proud to call Andrew my friend, and I wouldn’t have said that five years ago.”
Asked about his own future, Horgan said he’s always thinking about what’s in the best interests of B.C. “I’m going to keep doing this until I’m no longer effective for the people that I represent, and that is all British Columbians.”
— With files from The Canadian Press